DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings had a chance to make a big splash in free agency this offseason.
On Wednesday afternoon, they learned they didn’t land either of the two big fish – defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise – on the open market and now it’s back to the drawing board.
“I think at the end of the day we feel good about our offer,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “It was in the ballpark of what they signed with.”
Suter and Parise both signed with the Minnesota Wild, getting identical 13-year deals worth $98 million.
According to a source, the Wings offered Suter a 13-year contract worth $90 million.
“There are no more Suters or Parises on the market,” Holland said. “Those were the last big guys on the market of any major, major impact.
“I think now it’s going to go slow,” Holland continued. “We’ll explore what’s left on the market. We’ll talk to some teams to see if there are any players available. When things like this happen there seems to be a domino effect.”
Holland did confirm that the Wings did get to make a face-to-face pitch to Suter on Tuesday.
“We feel good we had an opportunity to fly over Tuesday, Mr. Ilitch, Chris Chelios, Mike Babcock and I, and lay out our plan for the team and for the future going forward,” Holland said. “We talked about what we’re all about and what we’re trying to build. Obviously he decided to go to Minnesota for a variety of reasons, some professional and some personal.”
Over half of the Wild’s $70.2 million salary-cap space is tied up in five players: Suter ($7,538,462), Parise ($7,538,462), Dany Heatley ($7,500,000), Mikko Koivu ($6,750,000) and goalie Niklas Backstrom ($6,000,000).
During his time in the business Holland admitted to never being confident about much that goes on.
“I’ve been in the game for 30 years and I don’t feel confident about anything,” Holland said. “I don’t feel confident going to the rink that we’re going to win. I don’t feel confident I’m going to get a deal done. That’s not a feeling that you get in this industry.”
The Wings seemed more in the running for Suter’s services than Parise’s.
On the first day of free agency, Detroit made offers to both camps.
Suter’s agents came back and told the Wings they were a little low on the dollar amount and they moved their offer up.
“I feel good about everything we were allowed to do,” Holland said. “I’m disappointed we didn’t get Suter. Certainly when you offer someone the amount of money we offered him you feel you’re a legitimate player.
“We made an offer on Parise on July 1, it was legitimate,” Holland continued. “We were told a couple of times that we were on a short list of teams he was considering.”
Suter and Parise will each make $12 million the next two seasons and $11 million the year after that. Then it’s five years at $9 million a season, followed by $8 million, $6 million, $2 million and the final two years at $1 million each to finish off the 13-year deals.
“You read today where they’re happy to be going as a pair and they’re both going home, those are some of the things we couldn’t compete against because we’re not home,” Holland said.
Suter, who also said returning to Nashville was a possibility, and Parise are both 27 years old.
“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves,” Suter said during a teleconference Wednesday. “We want to win. And the fans do to.”
Suter said that playing in Minnesota never seemed realistic.
“They were an option right away, Minnesota, and I always thought about Minnesota, it just never seemed realistic, but for me, right after the season, you think about places you could potentially go to, and the situation that is best for you and your family,” Suter said. “I definitely thought about different teams that I would be a good fit with, eventually it just came down to where my family would like to live. My wife is from Bloomington, Minn. That had a lot to do with it, and also the fact that Minnesota has a lot of good young players that I think will help make this team successful.”
Suter was the top defenseman available this summer. He had seven goals and 39 assists in 79 games last season with a plus-15 rating and just 30 penalty minutes while logging an average of 26:30 in ice time.
For his career, Suter has 38 goals and 200 assists in 542 games.
“Zach had a big part in my decision, and my family,” said Suter, who made $3.5 million last season. “Detroit is a great franchise, they came in (Tuesday) and I met with them. They’ve got a great thing going there, obviously, and they were right there until the end as well.”
Suter plays a strong two-way game and moves the puck well. He has a hard and accurate shot from the point.
He ranked third last season in average ice time per game, behind Florida’s Brian Campbell and Chicago’s Duncan Keith, who tied for first at 26:53.
Parise was the best forward on the market.
He scored 31 goals and had 38 assist last season and had 15 points in the playoffs to help lead New Jersey to the Stanley Cup finals, which ended in a six-game loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
“In the end, it came down between New Jersey and Minnesota,” Parise said during a teleconference. “I have great friends in New Jersey. I’m a loyal person. I loved playing there. It came down to coming home and being around family.
“I always hoped that I would have an opportunity to play in Minnesota,” Parise continued. “We do have a lot of ties to Minnesota, but … every kid that’s growing up in Minnesota would like to play for the Wild, and … we’re lucky to make it happen.”
In 503 career games, Parise has 194 goals and 216 assists. He’s scored 30-plus goal five times in his career.
“We’re happy with the moves we made on July 1,” Holland said. “Now it’s an opportunity for some younger people to play. We’ll see what happens in the next few months.”
On the first day of free agency, the Wings signed goalie Jonas Gustavsson (two years, $3 million), Mikael Samuelsson (two years, $6 million) and Jordin Tootoo (three years, $5.7 million). They also signed Swiss forward Damien Brunner to a one-year, two-way deal, which could pay him up to $1.35 million if he remains in Detroit.